Grain Mills Are Safer Than Grain Elevators
Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, it's the 7th most dangerous job in America, with nearly 25 fatalities per 100,000 workers each year. Most of the incidents involve transportation accidents. However, grain handling equipment like grain mills and grain elevators can also be dangerous.
Although to many non-farmers grain mills may seem scary and likely to cause injury, the truth is, as most farmers know, that grain elevators are much more dangerous.
Grain Dust and Explosions
Grains contain a lot of stored energy, which, under the right conditions, can be released in flame or even in an explosion. Explosions are likely when the air gets saturated with grain dust, which can then come in contact with an ignition source. Sometimes the ignition source can be a piece of equipment, such as a roller that gets hot during operation. Or it could be a lighted cigarette. In many cases, it's not possible to reconstruct the exact source of ignition.
About two-thirds of all grain dust explosions are associated with grain elevators, according to recent statistics. In 2018, there were 12 grain explosions that caused just one death and four injuries. Of these, eight were caused by grain elevators while two were caused by grain mills.
Although this is an increase from the period of 2006-2014, where grain explosions averaged about 10 per year, it's much lower than the period of 1976-1985, when there were an average of 22 explosions per year. This was before safety procedures were implemented for grain mills and grain elevators.
Entrapment and Suffocation
Another significant risk of grain elevators, silos, and bins is entrapment. In these incidents, a farmer or worker enters the grain storage and sinks into the grain. They then become trapped and may suffocate in a matter of seconds.
These incidents are even more dangerous. Dozens are reported each year, and about 60% of reported incidents are fatal. Worse, these incidents are rising dramatically in recent years.
In 2017, there were 23 grain entrapment incidents, of which 12 were fatal. In 2019, there were 38 entrapments, which resulted in 23 fatalities. It's expected that 2020 will be an even worse year, due to the poor condition of the 2019 harvest. This forces more people to enter grain elevators, silos, and bins to loosen stuck grain.
Safety Regulations Reflect Relative Danger
Given the fact that grain elevators are much more dangerous than grain mills, it's not surprising that the standards for the equipment are different. For example, while OSHA requires housekeeping plans for both types of equipment, only the housekeeping plans for grain elevators have a mandatory ⅛ inch "action level" for grain dust. In grain elevators, it's required that workers take care of fugitive grain dust when it reaches ⅛ inch. This is not required for grain mills.
Automatic Equipment Manufacturing Takes Safety Seriously
Of course, all equipment has the potential to be dangerous when used improperly. That's why we at Automatic Equipment Manufacturing make sure that we provide information and guidelines for the safe operation of our equipment.
If you would like to learn more about the safety of our grain mills, please contact us today for information.